This post recounts the last day of a trip I took around Indonesia in 2009.

Bemo-riding in Padang!

Bemo-riding in Padang!

I waited around for my flight to Jakarta, trying to take pictures of the passing bemos (public minibuses). In Padang they are decked out in spectacular fashion, with neon lights, music systems, cartoon murals on the side, spoilers and oversize exhaust pipes. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, a cat walked out of the conveyor belt from behind the desk as I was checking in. The AirAsia flight to Jakarta was uneventful, although I was grateful for my airport pick-up as Jakarta experienced one of its thundery downpours just as I exited the modern terminal.

Downtown jakarta and the 'Welcome Monument'

Downtown jakarta and the ‘Welcome Monument’

Jakarta is Indonesia’s overgrown capital. It is everything that is good and bad about an Asian city; endless shopping and desperate poverty, cultural diversity and ethnic tensions, global connections and traffic gridlock, millions of possibilities and dire overcrowding, rapid development and suffocating pollution. Despite itself, Jakarta is Indonesia’s powerhouse. I spent my Sunday in Jakarta with its few charms; air-conditioned shopping malls being one of them.

National Monument, Jakarta

National Monument, Jakarta

One of the more peculiar attractions is the monolithic National Monument. This spectacularly huge cement tower was the final thing built by Indonesia’s first ever president, Soekarno (the father of Megawati Soekarno-Putri). He was a devout Muslim, a Hindu mystic, a tribal leader and a democrat who invited communists into his own party. Yes, he was a confused man indeed. He was also a notorious womaniser, and I was told that some people call the National Monument “Soekarno’s final erection”. Classy. Later that sweaty afternoon I browsed two of the many air-conditioned mega-malls before heading back to Melbourne via Perth.


Have you been to Jakarta? What was your impression of this huge city?

Comments (4)

  • Andrew Reply

    im not sold on Jakarta. Never really been interested in going there. Whats the pull?

    May 28, 2015 at 5:25 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Neither am I, to be honest. It’s not that it’s a bad place… it’s just that there’s nothing which really sets it apart from other large South East Asian cities, except a lack of major tourist precincts.

      May 30, 2015 at 3:15 am
  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave) Reply

    I’ve never been to Jakarta but you’ve described it beautifully as I really got a sense of its highs and lows reading this and never knew anything about the first president – certainly sounds like an interesting character!

    May 29, 2015 at 4:49 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      He certainly does sound like an interesting character!! A very interesting, and in my opinion, under-appreciated history. Thanks for reading 🙂

      May 30, 2015 at 3:16 am

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